As a Latina Who Had To Assimilate, I Am Not OK With ‘Hilaria’ Baldwin’s Fake Spanish Accent
Latinos have a beautiful culture filled with so much heritage and vibrancy.
There isn’t an ounce of me that doesn’t love my Dominican heritage and how it ties me to other Latinos. Is it perfect? No, some parts aren’t savory, but that’s like anything else in life. Overall, I love it. I also love it when others celebrate the Latino community’s beauty.
What I don’t love is when people feel they can usurp that culture and build a false narrative à la Hilaria Baldwin.
In 2021, reports revealed that Baldwin’s Spanish accent wasn’t entirely real. While what the mother of seven does daily isn’t of total concern to me usually, I do have a bone to pick with the faking of the Spanish language.
I can respect having love for another culture. But trying to build a public persona on being Spanish, to the point that there are conflicting reports of your heritage, isn’t beneficial for anyone.
Baldwin was born in the United States, but her brand had folks believing she was born in Spain
According to Vox, “Hilaria” painted herself as someone born in Mallorca, Spain. Baldwin would speak with a “breathy” accent during interviews — something many believe was the product of a Spanish accent. There’s even a video of her not remembering how to say cucumber in English.
Baldwin was born in Boston, Massachusetts, and went to NYU. Her maiden name is Hillary Hayward-Thomas.
Due to her fame-adjacent marriage to Hollywood royalty, she became somewhat of a household name. Under the assumption of her Spanish heritage, she would be held up with the likes of Penelope Cruz, Javier Bardem and Mario Casas.
Once it was revealed that she wasn’t, in fact, from Spain, the internet did what it always does. Amy Schumer even took a jab during a comedy special. Baldwin responded to Schumer’s comment, and her questionable past was brought back into the internet’s consciousness.
But like Susanne Ramírez de Arellano wrote in an opinion piece for NBC News, Latinos aren’t afforded the ability to flaunt their culture like this.
The perpetuation of a language is something that harms the entire culture because it minimizes who we are
And I’m not talking about the “no sabo” kids who were raised in the U.S. whose parents never taught them Spanish. We can file that under assimilation so that the larger Caucasian-focused culture wouldn’t discriminate against their kids. And we know there are many nuances to include here, that would extend far beyond this article. We also know Spanish isn’t the primary identifier for Latinidad.
My bone is with the folks who lay no claim to the Latino culture and try to pick and choose the parts they like. I cannot count the number of people I’ve encountered of Latino heritage and descent who question themselves because they don’t feel “Latino enough.” It’s heartbreaking.
There’s always the “ni de aqui, ni de alla” feeling that keeps so many people hanging in a state of limbo. Despite having been born in the Dominican Republic, I am not Dominican enough for the people who were raised there. Having been raised in the U.S., I am not American enough for the people here.
They see me and ask, “Where are you from?” I tell them where I live, but that’s usually not enough.
“No, where are you really from?”
But in comes Baldwin, flaunting aspects of a people who are not hers to lay claim. A language, which by all accounts is the language of colonizers, is still not hers.
Baldwin’s use of Spanish reminded me of all the times Latinos have had to hide their beauty from the world
I have no qualms about her love of Spain. When you spend enough time in a country, you develop a bond for it. But Ben Affleck lived a year in Mexico, and I don’t see him claiming he’s Mexican.
He’s also dating someone of Puerto Rican heritage, but I don’t see him walking around mimicking the Nuyorican accent. As a fellow Bostonian like Baldwin, Affleck is proud of his roots. He loves Boston so much that he would not wear a Yankees hat in a scene of “Gone Girl.”
Does he love speaking Spanish, given the chance? Yes. Does he speak in a faux accent during interviews? No.
People like Rita Moreno, Raquel Welch, Rita Hayworth and Martin Sheen (Charlie Sheen’s dad) couldn’t be as unapologetic as Cardi B, Bad Bunny and Jennifer Lopez are today. Famous Rat Pack singer Sammy Davis, Jr., who ran around with Frank Sinatra, was of Afro-Cuban descent. He had to hide it as well.
Latinos have a torrid history of having to swallow our culture whole not to anger or cause fear in the lives of others — enough of that. If I want to wear red lipstick and hoops to a business meeting, trust that I will. Have a problem? Close your eyes.
On her own, I am sure Baldwin is a lovely person, and she has her merits. I wish she had tapped into her own strength and culture instead of trying to take something from mine.
Notice any corrections needed? Please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org